Do you have a bucket list? A friend told me he would like to see the Grand Canyon, the pyramids of Egypt, the Panama Canal before he dies. His love for creation and human achievements runs deep. But he also told me he wished he could have seen Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address, Jefferson sign the Declaration of Independence, Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount. A historical and spiritual bucket list.
In today’s Gospel, a wish was expressed. “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” So spoke the Greeks to Philip, a disciple of Jesus. The Greeks had heard about the ministry of Jesus, a prophet and healer, a compassionate and charismatic leader. Who is this person who is changing the lives of so many people? Who is this preacher proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling people to repentance?
One image of Jesus is “suffering servant.” In Hebrews we read: “. . . he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Startling! Jesus is that grain of wheat, crushed and given for us. Jesus is the one who, from the inside, knows our physical, psychological, and spiritual suffering.
If you want to see suffering, go where the suffering is: our nursing homes, our homeless shelters, our prisons. If you want to see Jesus, go where people serve: in the family kitchen, the classroom, the counseling office. If you want to see Jesus, go to Cana (wedding feasts), to Calvary, to the Cenacle (Upper Room).
The Jesuit William Reiser offers this insight in “seeing” (knowing) Jesus: “Being-with-Jesus refers to a manner of thinking, of acting, of loving, of relating to others, of viewing the world. It is a way of talking about our willingness to follow Jesus, to be drawn by his example, to learn from him, and to have our loyalties corrected and shaped by his.”
Philip and Andrew journeyed with Jesus and experienced a way of life grounded in love, compassion and forgiveness. Their attitudes and behaviors were radically altered as they watched Jesus interact with people, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the good and the bad.
Theologians and spiritual writers offer another language in helping see Jesus and understand more deeply who he is. Evelyn Underhill (d. 1941) wrote and preached about Jesus. This statement captures aspects of the glory of Jesus. “How shall we name him who is the fountain of love, and him in whom the response of love became incarnate, and him who is the tide of love sweeping from God to man and from man back to God?” It’s all about love for God’s proper name is “Amor” – Love!
We see God when we are deeply concerned about others, when respect and responsibility characterize our attitudes and behavior, when generosity and hospitality become a way of life. We see Jesus by living his life.
Bishop Morneau, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese, serves as sacramental minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay.